Does Eating Genetically Modified Foods Contribute to Gluten Sensitivity?

by Melissa Diane Smith

Could eating unlabeled genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods be an overlooked and perhaps key factor in the exploding incidence of gluten-related disorders the past decade and a half? That’s what numerous practitioners familiar with both the adverse health effects of gluten and the adverse health effects of GM foods, such as myself, have been wondering and suspecting.

Now a new report compiled by leading non-GMO advocate Jeffrey M. Smith pulls together what is known about gluten-related symptoms with what is known about  the health effects of GMOs to theorize that GMOs may contribute to gluten-related symptoms in five different ways.

The first possible way GMOs may be involved is by promoting permeable intestines, commonly called “leaky gut.”  Most patients with celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten sensitivity, have “leaky gut,” which can lead to an immune system attack on undigested proteins, inflammatory reactions and other symptoms of a hypersensitized immune system, and autoimmune reactions. It is also known that insecticide-producing genetically modified corn called Bt corn contains a toxin called Bt toxin that creates small holes in the cells of insects’ digestive tracts, leading to the insects’ deaths. New research shows Bt toxin from GM corn creates similar holes in human cells. Even though genetically modified seed companies say otherwise, it seems unlikely that Bt toxin pokes holes in cells in insects’ digestive tracts and wouldn’t adversely affect our digestive tracts as well.

The second manner GMOs may be involved is by promoting gut bacteria imbalances. Gluten-intolerant and especially celiac individuals have documented gut bacteria imbalances. The most widely used GM foods are those that are genetically modified to be tolerant to herbicide such as Roundup weedkiller, the most widely used herbicide. However, as a result of these types of GM foods, there has been a dramatic increase in the spraying of herbicide. The herbicide ends up in our food, and the main ingredient in Roundup selectively kills beneficial gut bacteria, which may lead to imbalances.

Two other ways GMOs may contribute are by reducing digestive enzymes and damaging the finger-like microvilli needed for nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Lab animals fed GMOs have had reduced digestive enzymes, damaged microvilli, and other significant digestive changes.

A fifth way GMOs may contribute is by damaging and/or oversensitizing the immune system. Numerous studies link GMOs to immune system problems, and mice exposed to the Bt toxin in pesticide-producing corn reacted directly and also became more sensitive to formerly harmless substances.

You can read the executive summary and download the complete report, “Could Genetically-Engineered Foods Explain the Exploding Gluten Sensitivity?” at this link.

Melissa’s comments:

On a personal note, more than a decade ago, I warned about the health dangers of GM foods, and GM corn in particular, in my Going Against the Grain book. In that book, I also spread the word about both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity that wasn’t celiac disease. Many people gradually learned they were gluten sensitive and felt better without gluten in their diets, and millions of people started following gluten-free diets. It was gratifying to see that information from my book spread like wildfire. But I became increasingly concerned that as people ditched gluten in their diets, they were eating more and more corn in their diet, never realizing that almost all corn in this country was genetically modified corn, which was associated with serious health effects – and most people on typical commercial gluten-free diets never seemed to feel well. That made me recommit to delving back into more recent research on GM foods and spreading the word every which way I could about the serious health effects of GM foods through writing, speaking, interviews, and counseling. Certain clients also came into my life, such as Marcia about whom I have written about several times on this blog, who had been eating gluten free for nine years but she had numerous health problems until she also took GMOs out of her diet.

From being a specialist in gluten sensitivity, also now being very familiar with the most up-to-date research on GMOs, and from seeing and hearing the experiences of clients such as Marcia, I can say there’s no way you can have good health eating a gluten-free diet but continuing to eat a lot of GMOs. And given that GMOs are linked to both gastrointestinal problems and immune system problems, it makes sense that GMOs would play a part, perhaps a big part, in gluten sensitivity and all the symptoms and conditions that go with it.

None of us has to wait for definitive proof that GMOs cause or contribute to gluten sensitivity. Whether we have gluten sensitivity or whether we don’t, the issue for all of us to be aware of now is we all have to avoid GMOs to protect our health.

Copyright © 2013 Melissa Diane Smith

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